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IES Grant

Title: Variations in Procedures to Improve Reading Fluency and Comprehension
Center: NCER Year: 2005
Principal Investigator: O'Connor, Rollanda Awardee: University of California, Riverside
Program: Literacy      [Program Details]
Award Period: 3 years Award Amount: $1,043,775
Goal: Development and Innovation Award Number: R305G050122

Co-Principal Investigator: H. Lee Swanson

Purpose: Having reading comprehension difficulties means having trouble with one or more of the foundation skills that make up the complex act of reading. Phonemic awareness, decoding, vocabulary, language skill, knowledge, and reading fluency all directly or indirectly contribute to reading comprehension. Because of this reciprocity, weakness anywhere in the system can spell trouble for growth in the other foundation skills and in comprehension. Many poor readers struggle with word reading, and often exhibit slow, halting, error-laced reading-that is, reading that lacks fluency. This lack of fluency is correlated with poor comprehension. The intent of this 3-year research project is to implement and evaluate approaches to improving the reading fluency and, by extension, the reading comprehension of struggling readers in second and fourth grades. At the conclusion of this project, this team will have a fully developed fluency intervention that incorporates the practices determined to be effective over the course of the project. The researchers will have evidence of the effectiveness of the combined intervention, and will also provide descriptive data on how fluency relates to comprehension in good and poor readers in the second and fourth grades.

Setting: This project is being conducted in a suburban public school district in southern California.

Population: Each year, the project includes 160 students divided equally between second and fourth grades. Yearly participants include 120 poor readers and 40 average readers. The school district includes approximately 40 percent Hispanic students, 11 percent African-American students, and more than half of the participating students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.

Intervention: Over the three years of the project, the team is gathering data to support the development of an optimal fluency intervention.

Research Design and Methods: In each year of the project, the researchers are experimentally testing a specific question around the development of reading fluency and comprehension of poor readers, including (1) the relative effects of continuous and repeated reading; (2) the relative effects of text difficulty; and (3) the amount of time spent practicing. After the last experiment, the researchers are combining the most powerful components of each tested intervention, and are testing its effects in a partner reading trial. Using a randomized blocks design, the intervention will be tested by randomly assigning matched trios of poor readers within classes to specific fluency variations or control, and comparing the outcomes of the variations on the development of fluency and comprehension of poor readers.

Control Condition: In Years 1 and 2, control children are not receiving any training or practice over and above what they would normally receive, and are considered an untreated control. Control students are being provided with 10 weeks of fluency practice after the experimental phase of the research is completed. In Year 3, students serve as their own controls in a within-subject design.

Key Measures: Participating students are assessed three times a year using a literacy battery that includes multiple standardized and descriptive reading measures. In addition, measures of reading fluency are being administered twice monthly.

Data Analytic Strategy: Effects of each variation are tested through 2-level hierarchical linear modeling, in which children are nested within teacher. Researchers also test for interactions between treatments, grade level, and severity of reading difficulty. The last analyses consider the effects of moderator variables such as phoneme awareness, working memory, vocabulary, severity of initial reading deficit, gender, and ethnicity on the growth of fluency and comprehension.


Journal article, monograph, or newsletter

O'Connor, R.E. (2018). Reading Fluency and Students With Reading Disabilities: How Fast Is Fast Enough to Promote Reading Comprehension?. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 51(2): 124–136.

O'Connor, R.E., Swanson, H.L., and Geraghty, C. (2010). Improvement in Reading Rate Under Independent and Difficult Text Levels: Influences on Word and Comprehension Skills. Journal of Educational Psychology, 102(1): 1–19.

O'Connor, R.E., White, A., and Swanson, H.L. (2007). Repeated Reading Versus Continuous Reading: Influences on Reading Fluency and Comprehension. Exceptional Children, 74(1): 31–46.

O'Connor, R.E., Gutierrez, G., Teague, K., Checca, C., Kim, J., and Ho, T. (2013). Variations in Practice Reading Aloud: Ten Versus Twenty Minutes. Scientific Studies of Reading, 17(2): 134–162.

Swanson, H.L., and O'Connor, R.E. (2009). The Role of Working Memory and Fluency Training on Reading Comprehension in Children who are Dysfluent Readers. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 42(6): 548–575.